Dignity be Damned: On Halloween & Other Scary Things in the College Classroom

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katBy Kat Kiefer-Newman
Halloween. This really doesn’t matter much in the college classroom, I know; except when it does (like if class falls on Halloween, or the day after Halloween, or if the class is Introduction to Mythology and Dia de los Muertos is one of the mythic holidays studied). In one of my writing classes I had the students write about their most memorable (but still legal) Halloween. The one paragraph narratives were sweet, charming, but some were more than a little disturbing (one young woman dressed like a Raggedy Anne doll and shared a horrible Tequila experience that I am so not going to retell here!).  I always debate bringing a pumpkin head full of candy, but decide it isn’t dignified.
Dignity is a theme that seems to come up a lot around Halloween.
This year, with both of my own kids away at college, and the neighborhood kids also all grown and gone, my husband and I decided to go out. We have never, in 21 years together, gone to a gala. This was a costumed event, of course; so we trekked off to the local fly-by-night Halloween store. These are strange seasonal beasts that show up in former Circuit City and Blockbuster buildings; they don’t have refunds; and they are stocked with every possible thing you could need for the holiday—at a terrifyingly extravagant price.  We headed to the adult costumes section and I was aghast (appalled, beside myself, apoplectic, horror-struck, even) by the variety of “sexy” costumes for women. If you can imagine some alter-ego to dress as, this store had a sexed-up version of it. Smiling vixens winked from shiny plastic bags, all promising that you could wear the clothes and be just as seductive.
Dignity went out the window pretty quickly. I spent almost two hours just trying to find something that would cover my butt when I walked. The helpful teenager who worked there suggested that I purchase a pair of ruffled panties to cover said-exposed-behind. That was her solution: cover my bottom with suggestively-innocent ruffles so no one would notice it hanging out of the sexy nurse, or sexy Wilma Flintstone, or sexy witch, or sexy Dorothy Gail costume.
I lost the ability to speak. My husband, on the other hand, thought it a spectacular idea and quickly grabbed the panties, along with the Dorothy dress, red shoes, requisite Toto basket and rushed me out before I could say a word.
I will admit that the outfit is charmingly cute, in that completely-inappropriate-for-a-45-year-old-professor kinda way. As I got dressed for our shindig, I hoped that none of my students would recognize me and post embarrassing pictures on Facebook. Dignity cannot coexist with white knee socks and ruffled panties. It just can’t. I also wondered how I would dance in the sparkly red shoes. If I were a betting person I would have put money down that they’d have ended up in the basket with the stuffed terrier. My husband had it easy, he went as a fully-dressed Scarecrow. Not a peek of skin showed except for his face. The weather forecasters predicted rain – I was afraid we were going to smell like burlap and damp gingham. Despite my grousing, I had fun.
Next year, I think I’m going as the blow-up M&M I saw in the back. As long as it isn’t the “green” M&M I think I can feel comfortable that some of my professorial dignity remains intact. Then again, is a college faculty member in a blow-up M&M costume any more dignified? Maybe I’ll wear the ruffled panties again—just for good measure.

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